Journalism or literature

 

With regards to the UPEC* Congress

At the end of my pre-university schooling I had the whim to be a journalist. Between three girlfriends, we contracted with a particular professor who helped us study for the tests to enter the university.  This woman insisted – to the point where I found it annoying – that I would never make a good reporter, but that everything in me pointed to another profession: philology.  Her curse came to pass because I ended up with words, phonics and literary concepts instead of running after the news.

It wasn’t just the prophecy of this Teresias* from Havana that led me away from reporting, but the conviction that in a society marked by censorship, opportunism and double standards, life as a journalist would be the source of a thousand and one frustrations.  I had met Reinaldo,  expelled from Rebel Youth* because, “his line of thought was not in line with the newspaper’s.”  Seeing his desire to write squandered on a tough day as an elevator mechanic was the final blow to my adolescent dreams.

Glasnost had passed us by and in Cuba a sense of lost opportunity spread among reporters and their frustrated readers.  Television told us over and over that production was increasing, the country would resist, and the “invincible leader” would carry us to victory, but our lives gave the lie to every triumphal phrase and each inflated figure.  Time and again I breathed a sigh of relief at not having become a journalist. I thought myself safe in the world of metaphor.

There was not, however, that much distance between the two professions, as the better part of journalism in the official Cuban media encompasses much that is literature.  In fact, I discovered that while trying to escape through fiction, fantasy and the theater, I found the same things the Cuban news bulletins were full of: characters whom nobody believed in, futuristic stories that never materialized, and a few smiling faces selected from among the thousands of anguished visages.

With her prediction, one illicit professor wanted to warn me of something I would discover for myself years later: between the fiction of our press and that of our novelists, the second was going to provide me more certainty.

Photo caption:  Police and “black wasps” control the gay corner of Prado and Teniente Rey

*Translator’s notes: 

UPEC = Association of Cuban Journalists (Unión de Periodistas de Cuba) 

Teresia = From Greek mythology, the blind prophet of Thebes who was transformed into a woman for seven years. 

Rebel Youth (Juventud Rebelde) = “The newspaper for Cuban youth,” according to its website. A daily paper with news of interest to younger people, that is teens and young adults; it is not children’s paper. 

 

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